View Full Version : Luckies

January 10th, 2016, 03:29 PM
From the journal, September, 1968:

Tom was never a heavy smoker. He actually preferred to smoke a pipe once in a while, trying all of the exotic tobaccos available from the smoke shop in downtown Punken Junction or, even better, from some of his old haunts in New York. In the fall of 1968, however, he tried cigarettes for a short time. If you are going to be a cigarette smoker, your college years are probably the ideal time to find that out.

One Friday night, Tom, Jim, and I had held our usual music jam and had shared a bag of chips and a few beverages. When Tom went home in the small hours of Saturday morning, he left an unopened pack of cigarettes on our coffee table. That was a temptation I couldn't resist.

I built a jig that would hold the pack upright and leave both of my hands free. Then I went to work with a scalpel and a jeweler's loupe. I carefully opened the bottom of the pack. Then I loaded four cigarettes at random. The loads were small, sharpened pegs that had dabs of a silvery compound on them. I pushed each one about a quarter of an inch down into a cigarette until it was out of sight. Then I used some thinned glue to reassemble the pack. When I had finished, there was no evidence of tampering - a good, clean job, me sayin' it as shouldn't.

Early Monday morning, Tom stopped to pick me up in his old blue Dodge Dart. We shared rides to college and this was Tom's week to drive. As we rode north, I handed the pack to him and told him where he had left it.

He said, "Thanks. I wondered where I had left those damned things. I was lookin' for 'em all weekend."

I said, "Well, they were safe with me. Those things give me a headache."

We were about up to Nesbitt Rd. when Tom unzipped the pack and tore off the silver paper flaps. We were accelerating around Lemuel's Switch when he lit his first gasper of the day. I tightened my seat belt and held on tight. I figured if one of those loads went off, that car was going to harvest corn in the field there for a while and then we were gonna die. The chances of drawing a loaded cigarette from that pack were 1 in 5, and Tom was lucky. Right then, I decided it was a good thing to be riding with someone who had that kind of luck.

When we arrived at the college, Tom had to attend a lecture, first thing. I hurried to the Student Union to warn "The Bevy".

If Tom had good everyday luck and great fishing luck, his woman luck was nothing short of phenomenal. "The Bevy" was a group of six tender, young, luscious, lissome, nubile, female women of the opposite sex who hung out with Tom in the commuter lounge. Their number waxed and waned during the day as they attended classes at different times, but there were usually enough of them present to keep the smokin', jokin', hijinks, and grabass going nonstop. All together, they had about as much fun as one was allowed to have in a student union. Even at that early hour, there were a couple of them present. I put them wise to the cigarette scam and they promised to spread the word.

Sometime later, I met Ed on the sidewalk and gave him the heads-up too. Ed was part of the lunch bunch that met with Tom and The Bevy in the commuter cafeteria. He went on his way, chuckling.

At noon, the lunch bunch convened and we made a noisy crowd, indeed. Ed sat at Tom's left and, when he and Tom had finished eating, Tom lit one of his cigarettes and offered one to Ed.

Ed said, "No thanks. I'm OK."

Tom said, "Oh c'mon. You just had lunch. Have a cigarette with us."

Ed replied, "Naw. It's all right. I am trying to quit anyway."

Tom said, "I've never known you to turn down a gasper. What's wrong, Ed?"

Ed said, "Well, uh, Mike said he loaded 'em."

Tom looked at me and I gave him a little shrug and my look of injured innocence. He said, "He couldn't have loaded 'em. This was a brand new pack. I opened it myself this morning and it hasn't left my possession since then. Besides, I have been smokin' 'em all morning and nothing's happened."

So Ed reluctantly took the offered cigarette. He really enjoyed it, too. Judging from the way he was Bogartin' it, he probably hadn't had a good puff all weekend. In the middle of his third drag, though, his smoke ended with a bang. All conversation in the room stopped while everyone looked at Ed. He sat there, slowly nodding his head while a filter and a paper banana peel hung from his lip. He knew he was had, but he couldn't figure out whom to blame or how it was done. He really didn't think luck was involved.

The noise in the room gradually returned to a normal level. The SDS creeps marched through the room, toting a float shaped like a coffin on broomsticks. It resembled a sedan chair for vampires. Those of us who had bought the Caesar salad decorated the procession with our tomatoes.

After this little diversion, Tom shucked a cigarette out of his pack, lit it, and offered another one to Cathy, one of The Bevy beauties.

She said, "What, think I'm crazy? Those are loaded!"

Tom said, "Well one was. The rest have to be OK. Mike would have to figure I would throw the rest away after one blew up. I know Mike. He wouldn't waste his loads by using more than one. Here. Have one. Don't worry." (That was a sterling example of deductive logic. Unfortunately, when Mike was loading the smokes, he wasn't thinkin' that fast.)

Cathy accepted a smoke. Eyes closed, she took short careful puffs. That did no good. Tom's luck held; Cathy's ran out with a bang. I left before someone got the impression that I had something to do with this whole thing. If The Bevy got that idea, they would try to beshrew me for sure.

On the way home that evening, I asked Tom, "You got any smokes left?"

He said, "Nope. They're all gone."

"You get a loaded one?"

"No. Ed and the girls got 'em all."

So Tom had given away four cigs that day - all loaded. He smoked the remaining sixteen himself. I could leave a little slack in my seat belt. I was riding with one lucky guy.

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Order of the Digital Grail